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Honors Thesis Archive

Author Margaux Empey
Title Assessment of Plastic Pollution in the North Carolina Marine System
Department Biology
Advisors Matthew Collier, Amber Burgett, and John Ritter
Year 2014
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (373 KB)
Abstract The aim of this study was to assess the presence of plastic in the North Carolina marine system. This assessment was completed by an analysis of fish stomach contents and a sediment analysis of a local beach. Fish guts of flounder, trout and trigger fish were collected from two local fish markets. Each stomach was dissected; the contents were examined for macroplastic particles. Sediment was collected from a beach at two locations, at the waterline and half way up the beach. At each location 0.019 cubic meters of sediment was analyzed for macroplastic and microplastic particles by sieving the sediment. Rose Bengal was used to help confirm if each particle was plastic or organic matter for both the fish stomach and the sediment analyses. Plastic particles were only found in flounder, and were found in 2.8% of fish analyzed. In the sediment subsample from half way up the beach, 49 microplastics were found. In the sediment subsample from the waterline, 61 microplastics were found. The total amount of plastic increases with the extrapolation from subsamples to 948 and 960 respectively. Plastic in the environment is harmful to animals that are ingesting or getting entangled in these materials. Toxins are absorbed into plastics and enter the biota when ingested. Due to durability if plastics, they will not degrade for hundreds of years, resulting in them impacting the environment for centuries to come. This assessment of plastic pollution in the North Carolina area incorporated studies that have not been done before in order to further research in this topic of study. A brief review of related literature provides further insight to implications of plastic pollution.

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